Colington Harbour tends to generate a lot of confusion on the Outer Banks. The area is occasionally referred to as "Colington Island," and yet there are two islands that make up this community. The area is also often referred to as the town of Colington or the town of Colington Harbour, when in fact, the area is actually a part of Kill Devil Hills and easily the largest subdivision and gated community on the Outer Banks.
With so many misconceptions floating around, it's easy for newcomers to the OBX to be just a little confused. Can you vacation in Colington Harbor? Are there any amenities in Colington Harbor? And where the heck is Colington Harbour anyways? Many first time vacationers who are heading to the Outer Banks don't even realize this expansive area even exists, as it is completely hidden from the main roads of the beach bypass, the central Outer Banks Beach Road, and NC Highway 12.
Take the right turn in the central OBX town of Kill Devil Hills, however, and you'll be in the heart of one of the Outer Banks' most peaceful and surprising residential communities. With a small handful of shops and restaurants, a collection of lovely homes and cottages, and miles of salty canals and sound-bordering open waters, Colington Harbor is a vacation destination that visitors to the Outer Banks will easily enjoy for an afternoon drive, a week-long stay, or even a lifetime of island living.
History of Colington Harbour
Though the area remains relatively unknown, Colington Harbour was actually one of the first and largest settlements on the Outer Banks, and has been populated by locals for thousands of years.
The Algonquin Native Americas happily called this area home for centuries for its acres of lush maritime forest and easy access to the open water for exceptional fishing, clamming and hunting. Located well away from the volatile oceanside environment, this area provided a peaceful home that was sheltered from passing hurricanes, flooding and rough ocean waves.
These same conditions that provided the Native Americans with centuries of easy living also attracted some of the Outer Banks earliest European settlers, and by 1663, a permanent English settlement was thriving on Colington Island. This initial settlement simply grew over the centuries, and Colington Harbour remained a healthy community of local ranchers, farmers, fishermen and families for well over three hundred years.
As tourism began to grow and thrive on the central Outer Banks in the 1960s, more folks from across the country began to move to the area to set up beachfront shops and restaurants, or simply find jobs in the local vacation industry. A number of these folks settled into Colington Harbour, for its selection of charming homes, (that were much less expensive than the oceanfront properties), convenient location to the beaches, and the family-friendly vibe that made the area feel more like a small town community than a beach resort destination.
Today, Colington Harbour still encapsulates that small-town charm, and approximately 3,500 year-round residents call this area home, making it one of the largest modern-day local "settlements" on the beach. A paradise for boaters and sailors, and still remaining a family friendly neighborhood, Colington Harbour is a perfect destination for new locals, retirees, or just folks who want to try a vacation outside the box, and outside the more populated and busy beach towns.
Geography of Colington Harbour
As stated, Colington Island is actually comprised of two separate islands, Little Colington Island which is closest to Kill Devil Hills and Big Colington Island which sticks out into the middle of the Albemarle Sound. The islands are divided by the Colington Cut, a small strip of saltwater that is barely noticeable to travelers, but which does indeed cut across the entire length of the land, making this region two islands instead of one.
Colington Island is surrounded by water on all sides, and while it technically borders the Albemarle Sound, the area is actually located where the four major sounds of the central and northern Outer Banks meet - specifically the Albemarle Sound, the Croatan Sound, the Roanoke Sound and the Currituck Sound.
As to be expected, residents and vacationers to Colington Harbour have fantastic boating access, and many even have their own private docks bordering a saltwater canal. Look at a map of Colington Harbour, especially Big Colington Island, and you'll notice a maze of small blue canals winding around the heart of Colington's main residential area. These canals are fed by just one open outlet to the Albemarle Sound, but ensure that the residents have fantastic access to the wide open waters.
Boaters have even more reason to cheer as Colington Harbour is also located just 10 miles from the Intercoastal Waterway, the prime means of travel for mariners who want to discover the East Coast and Gulf Shores in their entirety.
Colington Harbour features approximately 2,400 lots contained within a private gated subdivision, although day-trippers are welcome to explore for the afternoon. As for landscape, the area is an interesting environment, and feels worlds away from the typical Outer Banks beach scene, which is literally located just a few miles away.
The first thing that new Colington travelers notice is that the roads are curvy, a rare departure from the straight and narrow main drives along the bypass, the beach road and NC Highway 12. The second distinction is that Colington is actually quite hilly for the beach, and travelers will navigate up and down through low-lying marshlands and high maritime forests for miles before reaching the very edge of Colington Island, and the Albemarle Sound borders.
In fact, it is usually an initial surprise to find so many residences and miles of land to explore located so close to the beach, yet almost hidden along the beach bypass. To get to Colington Island in the first place, vacationers simply have to turn west on Colington Road, one of the many roads found along the soundside of US 158, and located in the heart of Kill Devil Hills next to a gas station and the chain restaurants of the locally named "Fast Food Alley."
Every slice of the Outer Banks environment is different, and Colington Harbour is certainly no exception. On your next OBX visit, why not take a quiet drive through the area and check out the unique scene for yourself.
Amenities and attractions of Colington Harbour
One of the biggest attractions to both residents and visitors to Colington Harbour is the absolutely fantastic boating access. In many neighborhoods, virtually every home sits on a canalfront property, with a boat dock or a small launching area for kayakers, stand up paddle boarders, and even windsurfers. The canals that run through Colington Harbour are deep and wide, allowing boats of all sizes easy access to the open sound waters. In addition, a number of soundfront or near-soundfront properties also enjoy incredible sunsets, with nothing but miles of Albemarle Sound on the horizon, creating a gorgeous, and unobstructed view.
For a little entertainment off the water, residents can also opt to join the renowned Colington Harbour Yacht & Racquet Club, which is located near the Albemarle Sound and features two sprawling outdoor pools, tennis courts, and a community clubhouse with incredible soundfront and island-wide views. Visitors who are planning a special event, a work retreat, or especially a wedding may want to consider the Yacht & Racquet Club, as the expansive interior with wraparound decks provides a secluded but incredibly convenient area for large receptions, as well as plenty of set-up space for caterers, bands, and even dance floors.
Close to the Yacht & Racquet Club, visitors will find the pristine and popular Colington Harbour soundfront park. Located on a peninsula adjacent to the clubhouse's pool, the park is surrounded by the local marina on the southern side, and by Roanoke Sound and Albemarle Bay on the northern side. Because of this locale, the park features acres of wide sandy beaches that border the maritime forest, shaded picnic areas that are protected under a canopy of live oaks, and a large picnic shelter for rainy afternoons. Additional park amenities include bulk headed portions for crabbing and fishing, as well as a fish cleaning station for any fresh catches.
The big attraction, however, is the water, and a swimming area in the sound is designated by a barrier of floating ropes and buoys. Ideal for young children, the gently sloping waters and lack of rough ocean waves create the perfect, safe watery playground for everyone in the family.
Vacationers and residents who crave constant entertainment options, restaurants, and stores within walking distance won't find it here, however Colington Harbour has just enough conveniences to keep its local population happy, while not intruding on the community, small-town atmosphere. The area has a pizza delivery service, a small handful of fast food joints or restaurants, and one of the Outer Banks' most prized and praised fine dining establishments, located in the heart of Colington Woods, and surrounded by white-light covered live oaks, creating a romantic atmosphere.
Colington Harbour also has a small handful of churches, a local fire department, and even a dog grooming establishment. In essence, despite the lack of big name attractions that its local Outer Banks neighbors are known for, Colington Harbour offers just enough to keep its guests and residents comfortable without disturbing the quiet landscape, and Colington lovers and residents wouldn't have it any other way.
Visiting and Living in Colington Harbour
Vacationers will find a small sample of vacation rental homes available for weekly stays in Colington Harbour, usually with fantastic soundfront or canalfront locations for easy boating, as well as fun afternoons of crabbing, fishing, kayaking, or just relaxing on the dock and watching the world pass by.
The majority of these properties are managed by local vacation rental companies, and can be rented in one week increments. To find a perfect spot, simply scope out the Colington properties offered by the central Outer Banks property management companies, which are often very easy to peruse online. Most all companies have easy online searches which allow browsers to select an area, including Colington, and see what results pop up. If you choose Colington Harbour as your vacation destination, be sure and see what community amenities are available with your stay, such as a private dock, boat slip rental, tennis access, or access to the community pools.
Outer Banks lovers in search of a more permanent vacation should also check out the community of Colington Harbour. Located close to the well-respected Kill Devil Hills schools, and offering family friendly and primarily residential neighborhoods, Colington is often a breath of fresh air for residents who want to be close to the beach, but just far enough away from the traffic and daily hustle and bustle that is routine in the summer season.
The properties available for sale here range from small mobile homes to 4-5 bedroom soundfront or canalfront luxury properties with private pools, multiple living areas, and incredible nightly waterfront views. Of course, new buyers will also find everything in between, including waterfront homes, secluded homes on large private wooded lots, and properties that are within walking distance of the renowned Clubhouse facilities.
Just as it was 50 years ago, the properties available for sale in Colington Harbour are general less expensive than the beach properties, mainly due to their year-round neighborhood nature. Though the oceanfront is not within walking distance, it is a quick 5-15 minute drive away, as are the number of grocery stores, restaurants, and attractions that make the Outer Banks one of the most popular and beloved destinations on the East Coast.
Interested buyers can simply do a quick Colington Harbour search on a local real estate website that offers Outer Banks MLS (multiple listing service) access, or talk to a local REALTOR in person during their next vacation. Colington Harbour has its own real estate company on the island, although vacationers will find that most real estate companies have agents on hand that are experts in the area - and may even be residents themselves.
Bear in mind that because Colington Harbour is technically a subdivision, an annual homeowner's association fee is to be expected, and residents may want to pay an additional fee for annual access to the Colington Harbour Yacht & Racquet Club. The association dues are comparable to other gated communities, however, and for most newcomers the annual fee does not have a significant impact on their housing budget.
As for neighbors, expect to be surrounded by both locals and "transplants," other Outer Banks lovers who took the plunge and made the big move to the OBX. These folks are working professionals, families, and retirees, and the area is a healthy mix of all ages, from young kids to older residences, giving it a nicely diverse but inherently neighborhood feel.
Tips and Tricks for Visiting Colington Harbor
- Want to explore Colington Harbour but don't necessarily want to interrupt an already crowded vacation schedule? Get in the car and take a drive. Located literally off the main bypass, the drive into Colington is one of the more scenic minor road trips on the Outer Banks - and that is a remarkable distinction indeed. Spanning small bridges, open sound views, and wild marshlands, many folks find the best way to see Colington is via an hour of in-the-car exploration.
- For Outer Banks visitors who plan to spend the majority of their vacation on their own boat exploring the waters, Colington Harbour may be just the perfect fit. With the majority of rental homes in this area offering boat slips, docks, and step-outside-the-door access to deep water canals, in most cases, bringing and parking the boat is not a problem in these neighborhoods. Be sure and check with your vacation rental company when searching for homes to see which properties cater to the boating set.
- Have an upcoming wedding or special event? Explore the possibilities within Colington Harbour. In addition to the Colington Harbour Yacht & Racquet Club's clubhouse, which is seemingly designed with weddings in mind, a number of areas around the Club's ground are available for rent, including the park pavilion and the shaded picnic areas for smaller, outdoor affairs.
- Keep your eye on the community calendar. There is almost always something fun happening in Colington, especially in the summer months, and vacationers can expect to enjoy everything from weekly cook-outs to annual pig pickins'. Many of these events are in fact community fund raisers for the local swim team or the volunteer fire department, so patrons can feel good knowing that not only are they having a great meal and a great time, but they are also giving back to the community.
Colington Harbour may be a mysterious or even unheard of destination for Outer Banks newcomers, but with a little exploring and a little self-guided investigation, OBX visitors will discover a world of scenic views, charming waterfront homes, and friendly quiet neighbors.
For a peaceful vacation that revolves around the water, or a lifetime of local Outer Banks living, consider Colington Harbour a hidden Outer Banks gem, and the ideal home away from home. Why not take a little afternoon road trip along Colington Road, or start your search for homes for sale bordering the canal or tucked away in the maritime forest, and start your discovery of this charming seaside neighborhood. Locate just a coupe miles from the beach, Colington Harbour is a friendly, serene world all its own.